Through his eyes – 27

The word ‘Naxal’ originated from the name of a village called Naxalbari in the district of Darjeeling, West Bengal. The ultra-left communist movement which had started at Naxalbari spread all over the state of West Bengal and few other Indian states.
The neutral families, even though few in number, who showed no support either for Naxals or for their enemy CPI(M) were soon known to be not ‘truly neutral’ as there were many indications to believe that those were the primary sources through which the police collected information about each and every family.
Over the next few months after the incidence of ‘rifle snatch’ there was not a single day when people in the village did not witness at least one bomb blast, sometimes in front of their eyes and sometimes a deafening sound followed by the sight of billowing smoke, unpleasant smell of burning sulfur and men running in all possible directions. Naxals walking on the street with firearms was so common that people stopped paying serious attention.
 
Every day the local newspaper printed news of policemen being killed by Naxals or Naxals being gunned down sometimes by the police and sometimes by their enemy; innocent people also fell victim being caught in between those gun fights or bomb blasts. People went out for their daily work but till they returned home, their family members would remain in constant fear; when a person did not return home on or before his usual time of return, family members would start walking up and down near the house, looking at the watch every few minutes. Sometimes a mother would send her boy or girl to the next door neighbor’s house to inquire if the man of that house had returned from work or not and would feel better if the neighbor also had not returned. Ears and eyes of small boys and girls became like the most powerful radio and optical telescopes to catch the faintest signals of their fathers returning home, seen at a very large distance in the dim yellow light of an electric lamp post. Nothing gave more happiness to a boy when he had discovered his father in that faint yellow light; he would first run inside the house to share the great news with the rest of the family and then run to his father to carry his bag while walking beside him. There was a fear of whether a man would return home or not, whether he would be taken to some hospital with an injury from a bomb blast or would be spending time in the lock up of a police station; nobody knew where to look out for a missing person. People were afraid of carrying even fruits and vegetables in jute bags for the fear of being apprehended by police suspecting that what was inside could be explosive. In the backdrop of a ‘dreadful present’ everything of the past, including unemployed youth sitting idle at home appeared ‘great’.
Every day young people from the village were taken to the police station and beaten, sometime so severely that it needed medical attention and complete rest; sometimes middle aged men were also not spared. To bring the Naxal movement under control, Central Reserved Police Force, meant for extreme law and order situation, was deployed in the state and those policemen, who were mostly from the northern states and did not understand the local language used every single opportunity to abuse women.
 
Naxals started cautioning people about police spies and everybody was asked to keep an eye on strangers. Hardly any salesman or even a beggar was seen on the streets, people had to go to the town even for mending their shoes. During that condition of extreme paranoia, a young man was seen in the neighborhood, distributing leaflets having some quotes from the ‘Holy Bible’. The message of peace that was printed in the leaflet did not go well with the people of apparently Christ forsaken village, he was suspected to be a police spy and when few young men challenged him he got so scared that he left and was never seen again.
Email: mintughoshal@gmail.com
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